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Video: Make healthy cereal choices

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    >> a promise for life.

    >>> this morning on "taking health to heart today," making better cereal choices. today contributor nutritionist joy bauer has the scoop on getting the most from your breakfast bowl. joy, good morning to you. a lot of people aren't sure about cereal, whether it is heart healthy or it isn't. in many cases it is. right?

    >> yeah. even the right cereal in the morning is a super simple way to give your body a dose of whole grains. and we know whole grains provides us with fiber and fiber then in turn reduces the risk for heart disease , metabolic syndrome , type 2 diabetes and there is even a recent study out of harvard that shows men who regularly eat whole grains are less likely to develop high blood pressure . so it's all good.

    >> but not all cereals are created equal. we are standing behind some that you say are way too heavy in sugar.

    >> oh, my gosh. the cereals that we're showing, plus many other cereals that we find in the market are literally a combination of pure, straight sugar and refined white flour . and, yeah, they're fortified with a handful of vitamins and minerals but it doesn't undo the fact that you're basically eating dessert for breakfast.

    >> if have you this every day for a year, what will that do to your health?

    >> it is not great. it's going to cause havoc on your internal blood sugars. you take in a dose of sugar, you get a spike, then you get a crash, and you're left feeling irritable, moody, lethargic and hungry. it is not a way to start a day at the office or send our kids off to school like that.

    >> i just fill a bowl with cereal which is more than one serving to begin with.

    >> this is an appropriate serving. it is three-quarter to one cup dry and it is very measly. most people don't pour this size, they pour this size. this is double that amount. so this is 1 1/2 cups to 2 cups, the equivalent of six teaspoons of straight sugar.

    >> in just that one "serving."

    >> in the double serving. and, to drive the point home, it's the equivalent of six chocolate chip cookies . so you just sat down and had dessert for breakfast. and because many people have breakfast cereal as a religion in the morning, if you have this type of a cereal five days a week at the end of the year, guess what, meredith? over 1,600 chocolate chip cookies .

    >> oh, my gosh! on the hips. that is unbelievable.

    >> it is crazy. think about what it does to your insides. it is not a great way to start your morning.

    >> what you have to learn first an foremost, how to read a label. when we see labels on the back of serial boxes, what should we look for?

    >> very simple. three things. first, scoot right down to the fiber. you want at least three grams of fiber per serving. this one has five. a-plus. now zip down to the sugars. no more than eight grams of sugar per serving. this one has five. again, two thumbs up. lastly, go to that ingredient panel and the first item should have 1 of 3 words -- "whole," "oats" or "bran." whole indicates it is automatically a whole grain. oats is already a whole grain. and bran is that outer tough portion of the grain that has a lot of fiber to offer this product. so it is all good.

    >> all of thieves cereals would fit that bill.

    >> yes. and the good news is, look how many are in the market! not only do these cereals fit my criteria, but i taste tested them with kids, with teens, with adults. and they passed with flying colors . and they're all listed on the website. so i'm hoping people go to the web.

    >> find a good choice.

    >> yes.

    >> in terms of the well-balanced breakfast, if you want cereal, cereal plus what? what would you put with it?

    >> cereal, make sure it is one serving with either skim milk or a 1% low-fat milk and top it with a fruit, like sliced bananas or maybe one or two tablespoons of raisins. if you want more volume with your breakfast, have the fruit on the side. an orange, a grape future, a sliced apple.

    >> all sound advice . and tons of cereal, which is the good news.

    >> delicious cereals.

    >> delicious cereals from joy bauer.

TODAY contributor
updated 10/5/2009 11:03:25 AM ET 2009-10-05T15:03:25

Enjoying a bowl of healthful cereal for breakfast is an easy, no-brainer way to start your day with a serving of fiber-rich whole grains. But not all cereals are created equal, and some offer little more than a hefty dose of sugar and refined white flour. In fact, in some cereals, more than 50 percent of the calories per serving come from straight sugar! Pick one of these “cereal catastrophes” and you’re basically having cookies and milk for your morning meal.

Here are three simple rules you can follow to make sure you’re choosing healthy cereals for you and your family:

First ingredient is whole grain
Check the ingredients list and make sure the first ingredient is preceded by the word “whole” (whole wheat, whole grain corn, etc.). You can assume oats and brown rice are automatically whole grain. If the first ingredient is bran (oat bran, corn bran, wheat bran, etc.), that’s fine too. Bran isn’t technically “whole grain” because it’s actually only one component of a whole grain. That said, bran is a concentrated source of naturally occurring fiber, so I consider cereals with bran as their main ingredient just as healthy as whole grain options.

At least 3 grams of fiber per serving
A high-fiber diet has been shown to protect against heart disease and may reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome. I recommend choosing cereals with at least 3 grams of fiber per serving so your family members get a good start toward meeting their daily requirement. The fiber content is typically a good reflection of how much whole grain and/or bran the cereal offers (although some cereals contain added fibers like polydextrose or inulin).

No more than 8 grams of sugar per serving
Even if a cereal is made from whole grains or loaded with other healthful ingredients, a high sugar content disqualifies it from my list of top picks. Most of the sugars in breakfast cereals are added sugars (from ingredients like corn syrup, white or brown sugar, honey and evaporated cane syrup), but cereals can also contain natural sugars from raisins and other dried fruits. Too much sugar in the morning — regardless of the source — can spike your blood sugar and get your day off to a rough start. I use 8 grams of sugar as my maximum cutoff for breakfast cereals. 

Top picks for healthy cereals
Note: * indicates it contains artificial sweeteners

  • Kashi Heart to Heart – Honey Toasted Oat
  • Kashi Heart to Heart – Warm Cinnamon
  • All-Bran Complete Wheat Flakes
  • Special K Protein Plus*
  • Original Cheerios
  • Multigrain Cheerios
  • Total (original)
  • Wheaties
  • Wheat Chex
  • Barbara’s Bakery Shredded Spoonfuls (Multigrain)
  • Weetabix Crispy Flakes
  • Grape-Nuts Flakes
  • Post Bran Flakes
  • Newman’s Own “Sweet Enough” Honey Flax Flakes
  • Smart Start Strawberry Oat Bites*

Best bets for kids

  • Kashi Mighty Bites
  • Honey Kix
  • Kashi Honey Sunshine
  • Cascadian Farm Clifford Crunch
  • All-Bran Yogurt Bites*
  • Fiber One Honey Clusters*
  • Cascadian Farm Purely O’s
  • Cascadian Farm Honey Nut O’s
  • Cascadian Farm Cinnamon Crunch

Find out if Joy’s Life Diet is right for you at JoyBauer.com

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